Two words that must be associated with worship: revelation and response. Every time we come to God in an attitude of worship, it must be because we are responding to His revealed Word. Without such revelation, our worship lacks reason and substance.
Many of us are familiar with Shema, the famous Jewish verse found in Deut. 6:4-5.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your might.”
If you take a closer look, the first part is the revelation. The LORD was telling the Jewish people that He is One God. Notice what comes after it: You shall love the Lord your God… That’s the worship part.
Another example is the whole book of Romans. From chapter one to eleven, Paul made a long case for Christian doctrine. He expounded a lot of themes in the Christian faith and in chapter 12, he concluded by saying “therefore, in view of God’s mercies, offer your bodies…” Here we can see how revelation preceded worship.
I have heard many well-meaning Christians say that our worship should be so powerful that we could just go home after the singing and do away with the preaching of the Word. While many people say this to emphasize the importance of a heartfelt worship experience, it is still worth mentioning that this belief is erroneous on at least three counts.
First is the obvious misconception that congregational singing IS worship. It’s not. Worship is the entire church service, or, if you want to go technical, it’s supposed to include everything that we do. The point is that the singing part in the church is just a fraction of our corporate worship. Giving our offerings is worship. So is the listening to the preaching of the Word of God.
Second is relegating the solid meat of the Word of God as a secondary priority. I firmly believe that the preaching of the Word should always be a prominent feature of our Sunday services. It is a non-negotiable. To suggest that praise and worship could almost take the place of preaching is a grave theological imbalance that needs immediate correction. If there is no revealed Word, how are we going to respond to God in an attitude of proper worship?
Third is inadvertently elevating our (subjective) worship experiences to be on the same level with the (objective) power and authority of the Word of God. Worship has its unique place in the life of a Christian. It is our expression of thanksgiving and adoration to God. But we must not forget that worship is US doing something for God. It is an upward activity. God’s Word, on the other hand, is God sending a message to us. It’s downward, from the heart of God to the heart of man. Whereas worship can be used as a tool of evangelism, it is the preaching of the Word that gets people saved.
The idea of worship as both a revelation and a response also serves as a gentle rebuke to people who are only interested in high energy praise songs and emotional lyrics but are inattentive to the preaching of the Word. In every church, there are people who seem too hyperactive when it comes to singing but slumps down on their seats during the preaching time.
If you really come to think of it, you’ll realize that your most meaningful worship experiences were not the ones when you jumped the highest or screamed the loudest but when your spirit was fed with a good dose of the Word of God, when you got a fresh revelation from the Bible and turned your excitement into songs of authentic praise.
This means that you need not manufacture excitement every time you come to church for worship. As long as your heart got a fresh revelation from heaven, your worship automatically becomes meaningful whether you scream hard or cry in silence.